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Optical/IP

Cisco Pads B-RAS Offering

The battle of the broadband remote access servers (B-RAS) is underway.

Today, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) announced two new product enhancements for its B-RAS offering (see Cisco Enhances B-RAS). Firstly, it’s added a new, faster routing engine for the Cisco 10000 edge router. Secondly, it will be offering B-RAS functionality on its metro Ethernet edge router, the Cisco 7600.

Cisco isn’t the only vendor making noise about new B-RAS offerings at this year’s Supercomm 2003 tradeshow: Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK) also made an announcement today (see Redback Broadens SmartEdge Platform). The company, which has traditionally had a strong showing in this category with its SMS product line, is now adding B-RAS functionality to its SmartEdge routing platform (see Redback Sharpens SmartEdge).

As broadband deployments and revenue for B-RAS-enabled devices increase, it’s unsurprising that vendors are trying to one-up each other in this market segment.

“Cisco’s move to add B-RAS to more routing platforms makes sense,” says Susanna Vidal, an analyst with Synergy Research Group Inc. “The market for broadband subscriber aggregation and remote access has grown worldwide in the last quarter. Most of the growth is in Europe and Asia, but we’re also seeing growth in the United States.” Like Redback, Cisco is expanding its B-RAS portfolio to address new markets. While the Cisco 10000 has been improved to keep up with competitors serving the DSL and leased-line markets, the 7600 router is geared toward an emerging B-RAS market -- metro Ethernet.

Cisco already supports B-RAS functions in the 6400 Broadband Aggregator. Its 7400 series router and the 7200 series router are also designed for collocation with DSLAMs (DSL access multiplexers). The 7200 can handle up to 16,000 user sessions.

“If we contained our B-RAS functionality to a single platform, we would have difficulty addressing the whole market,” says Jared Headley, senior manager of product marketing for Cisco. “Ethernet is a huge opportunity for us. Carriers need high-density solutions coupled with routing and broadband. Where we see Ethernet services like Wi-Fi and remote mobile users, we’ll see the 7600 pick up steam.”

Let’s dig into the details of the new enhancements. The new routing engine for the Cisco 10000 doubles the number of sessions that can be supported on the device. The old engine supported about 32,000 simultaneous sessions, while the new engine allows the box to handle over 60,000 sessions. Cisco also introduced a new OC48 (2.5-Gbit/s) uplink to handle higher-capacity aggregation. As part of the improved performance, it also claims that all services can run at OC48 speeds.

The Cisco 10000 got off to a slow start in terms of deployments when it was first introduced, but Headley says the router is now deployed in several major carrier networks, including BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), British Telecommunications plc (BT) (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA), China Telecommunications Corp. (NYSE: CHA), and Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q).

The upgrade announced today ensures that customer investments in the Cisco 10000 will be protected, according to Headley. He claims that existing line cards will work with the upgraded routing engine and that no additional software or hardware must be added to the cards in order to operate in the newly upgraded chassis.

As for the 7600 edge router, Cisco has introduced a new multiprocessor WAN Application Module that fits into the existing chassis to enable remote Ethernet users to connect to a network. Each module can support 32,000 simultaneous sessions per module and 3-Gbit/s worth of throughput. This functionality is comparable to the original Cisco 10000 specifications. The 7600, which is identical in design to Cisco’s high-speed Catalyst 6500 Ethernet LAN switch, is designed to aggregate high-speed and high-density Ethernet traffic. Its latest 10-Gbit/s Ethernet line card offers two ports of full line rate forwarding (see Cisco Takes On 10 GigE Competition). But with 3-Gbit/s of throughput available on each MWAN module, the new module doesn’t allow for traffic to be forwarded at full line rate when all B-RAS functions are turned on.

Cisco isn’t the only vendor addressing the high-speed metro Ethernet B-RAS market. Laurel Networks Inc., which also offers 10-Gbit/s Ethernet interfaces, has added B-RAS capability to its ST200 platform (see Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack and Laurel Targets 10-Gig at the Edge).

The Cisco 10000 also faces plenty of competition against the likes of CoSine Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: COSN), Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Network Equipment Technologies Inc. (net.com) (NYSE: NWK), Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Redback.

One thing Cisco clearly has going for it is market share. In the first quarter of 2003, it dominated the edge switching segment with over 65 percent of the market, according to Infonetics Research Inc. Juniper had about 21 percent, and Redback came in third with about 7 percent.

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

For extensive and up-to-date coverage of this week’s Supercomm tradeshow, visit Light Reading's Supercomm Preview Site.

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